Posted on December 16, 2011

Dreams Do Discriminate: Racial Makeup Mimics Real Life

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience, December 16, 2011

Here’s a new version of the old question “Do you dream in color?” What color are the people in your dreams?

A new study finds that the racial makeup of dreams tends to match up with the proportion of different races people run into in their daily lives. A person’s own race matters as well, said study researcher Steve Hoekstra, a psychologist at Kansas Wesleyan University.

“If you are, say, a black student at a predominately white school in a predominately white community, yes, you dream more about whites than do other black people in other communities,” Hoekstra told LiveScience. “But you also dream more about blacks than most people do in your same community.”


Black or white

Hoekstra investigated the question with the help of a couple undergraduate research assistants and a few photocopies of a brief dream survey. The researchers asked 66 students at the predominately white Kansas Wesleyan University to fill out the survey. Next, Hoekstra asked a colleague at the historically black Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina to have another 60 students at that school fill out the survey.

The students answered questions about the racial makeup of their waking life as well as their dreams. {snip}

Remembering race

They found that real-life race does matter in the dream world: Individuals reported that the largest proportion of people in their dreams were of their own race. The racial makeup of people’s dreams also tended to match the racial makeup of their daily lives. The findings were true of both blacks and whites, Hoekstra said. Asian and Hispanic participants showed similar patterns, but there were too few of those races in the study to draw firm statistical conclusions.

Television can apparently creep into dreams as well, Hoekstra said. People who watched more TV reported more blacks and fewer whites in their dreams. Preferences for sports and comedy programs, in particular, seemed linked to dreaming about more blacks, perhaps because those genres represent more black people than other shows.